So many people travel all the way to Rwanda and then zip immediately off to say hello to our gorilla cousins with little to no time spent enjoying Kigali. Some people might say that the city doesn’t have much to offer and isn’t worth a stop. To those ‘some people’ I say: ‘Poppycock!’ Sure, Kigali’s charms might not be immediately obvious, but there really is a lot to do here and you won’t be disappointed if you (with a map in hand) head out to explore.
I’m obviously a big fan of Kigali and I do my best to convey its charms on this website. But it’s one thing to read about a place and a whole other thing to really go out and get to know a city. It’s not always easy just roaming around looking for fun things to do – that’s where a city tour comes in!
Lucky for all of us, the fine folks who started the hugely popular Go Addis Tours (formerly Addis Eats) food and city tours in Ethiopia have moved to Kigali and expanded their operations to include our lovely little city under the name Go Kigali Tours.
Their sister business Go Addis Tours are a seriously professional operation: Their tours are number one on Trip Advisor for Addis Ababa, they have over 200 reviews with a 100% Trip Advisor rating, and they’ve won the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence two years running. They were even the restaurant and market ‘fixer’ people in Addis for Anthony Bourdain’s show ‘Parts Unknown’. They’ve also been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic, and Fodor’s. They’re the real deal, people, and I don’t think it’ll be long until their tours become the main thing to do for visitors to Kigali.
I went on their amazing food tour in Addis last year so I had high expectations for Kigali. I was invited on one of their tours here and I went in expecting a very high quality, well organised, thoughtful and informative tour with a strong focus on customer service. I wasn’t disappointed! I’d say that I know Kigali pretty well and their tour had something new and unexpected for me at almost every point along the way.
Our guide for the day was Francis, an awesome young Rwandan guy fluent in English, French, and Kinyarwanda with a great sense of humour and a vast knowledge of his city. He had some amazing stories and insights including the time he spent as the leader of his umudugudu in Nyamirambo, lots of information about the city’s history, an explanation of the surrounding countryside (as seen from Mount Kigali), and loads more. It’s evident that Go Kigali have put a lot of effort into training their guides (this was also the case in Addis) and Francis exceeded my expectations.
Go Kigali’s city tour is done on motos which I think is a great idea since taking moto taxis in Kigali is such a huge part of day-to-day life here. I loved zipping around inconspicuously on a moto rather than being stuffed into the back of a car or bus. If you’re not comfortable on a moto, you do have the option of being taken around by car for an extra cost, though I really think this misses out on an important aspect of life in the city. Plus, Go Kigali uses drivers who are already highly trained by SafeMotos and then they put them through even more training both in customer service, guiding, and safety. The drivers are essentially acting as your own individual assistant guide and they’re happy to answer questions while you’re on the go. The drivers are all great and you’ll probably form a nice little bond with your guy before the day is done.
I don’t want to give you play-by-play of the entire tour since I want you to try it out for yourselves but here’s what you can expect:
- A small group of no more than six people per one guide.
- A free mini-map of Kigali (designed by yours truly!) and the option to buy my bigger Kigali map at a discount.
- A beautiful view of the city from the top of Mount Kigali.
- A visit to a mosque in Nyamirambo along with some great information about that fascinating neighbourhood.
- A stop at a local milk bar or tea house for drinks and a snack.
- A walk around a local market including a sampling of Rwanda’s finest fresh fruit.
- An art walk led by a local artist taking in some beautiful murals.
- A Rwandan lunch with plenty of tasty local food.
- A visit with a local jewellery maker where you can also shop for souvenirs.
- A stop at a coffee shop (with the best brew in town) and a tour of their small facility (this includes a roasting demonstration on certain days of the week).
- A short boat ride to a remote neighbourhood for a small walk around finished with a tour-ending beer or other tasty beverage.
Many of these things aren’t open to the public unless you’re a part of the tour, which makes the whole thing a pretty sweet deal. The tours all end at around 3pm at the Kigali Genocide Memorial where you can either arrange for your driver to wait for you or make your own way home after you have a chance to look through the memorial. I think ending at the Memorial is a great idea since many people will have already seen it and since it allows people to spend the rest of their day there without being rushed.
Go Kigali’s city tour really is well thought out and I think it’s an amazing addition to the ever-expanding ‘things to do in Kigali’ list. Go Kigali tours will open your eyes to the city in a fun and engaging way and I saw some new corners of the city and learned a lot about my adopted hometown.
Check them out over on their Go Kigali website where you can book and pay online. Tours cost $85 per person which is money well spent considering all of the great stops, the highly trained guides, personal moto transportation, and the food and snacks.
But as if all of that isn’t amazing enough… I have a 10% discount for you if you book using the code LIVINGINKIGALI (valid until October 1st, 2016). How awesome is that? Pretty awesome. Check out their site and book your tour. I promise you’ll have a great time and learn a lot about Kigali in the process.